Sorry for the gap. Life's been a bit insane lately.
He sat hunched over in his chair, unmoving. The first twinges from his protesting back were making themselves known but he paid no attention, his gaze fixed before him.
The film kept looping over and over in his fatigued mind and each round brought more anger, more disgust. He'd allowed the gun to slip from his fingers before both cops tackled him. It didn't take long to get it all sorted thanks to Gillian but there were still charges pending against him. Cal gave a snort. Charges pending against him. Apparently the cops held a very dim view of vigilantism. So be it. They could all sod off.
Emily had been restless but had not yet regained consciousness, at least not completely. The doctors told him it was to be expected. Rohypnol. Roofies. The date rape drug. It was what it was. A large chunk of her life had been stolen from her but Cal had been assured she hadn't been sexually assaulted. He'd almost cried in relief, stopped himself, before allowing his emotional response after they'd gone.
Her hand twitched in his and he leaned forward just a bit more to watch her face. A slight frown appeared as her eyes cracked open.
The girl looked right at him before the lids sunk closed again.
Cal continued to hold her small hand between his two larger ones.
A gentle touch against his shoulder had Cal sighing. He reluctantly placed his daughter's hand back against the bed.
"Here. Thought you could use this."
Craning his neck up to look at Gillian, he allowed a reserved smile as he took the proffered tea. "Thanks darlin'."
She pulled another chair up. "Anything?"
"Opened her eyes just a second ago but went back to sleep. Doc said it'll probably be a couple more hours."
She nodded, one hand falling to his arm and rubbing gently. "Bressler already has a lawyer."
"May not help him though."
Cal turned to look at her, one eyebrow rising. "How's that?"
"He started to incriminate himself before his counsel showed up."
"Was he mirandized?"
"Huh." He scrunched his face in thought. "Little fish though. Like to get at the sharks on the periphery."
Gillian gazed at him, the soft hair of his forearm under her fingertips. She wondered if, now that Emily was safe, he'd be able to let it go or if he'd continue to pursue the scent like a bloodhound.
"Like a go at him in the cube."
She should have known, although she thought it would be unlikely they'd let Cal within 200 yards of that kid. Unless he tried to pull in favors of course, that was always a possibility.
"He's scared. He has some very serious charges against him and I'm inclined to think he may do whatever he needs to do to save himself."
"Including rolling over on his bosses? Wouldn't surprise me. Also wouldn't surprise me if he didn't get that far. Human traffickers usually don't take kindly to whistle blowers. Life's too cheap to them." At the words, nausea rose up and he leaned forward, shutting his eyes. Human trafficking. Selling girls into slavery. Sexual and otherwise. And they'd almost gotten Em. He took several deep breaths in through his nose and released them slowly from between his lips. They hadn't though. She was safe.
He could feel Gillian's hand traversing his back. She'd been the one to rein him in. If it hadn't been for her, it was very possible he would've turned that kid's head into a red mist. She was his anchor to sanity. He took another breath as the urge to throw up slowly abated. "I'm okay luv."
The hand didn't stop caressing and he felt her lean her cheek against his upper arm. "I know."
He heard crying through darkness and unsettled dreams. His heart pounded painfully against his ribcage as his conscious mind attempted to negotiate the tangles and find its way back to awareness.
The word was so soft and racked by such misery. It was also the catalyst that immediately pulled him up out of his fitful sleep. Cal's eyes flew open and his body jerked forward. Some part of him was aware that Gillian had been asleep with her head propped on his shoulder and was now upright and blinking next to him.
She was sitting up in bed, her large dark eyes terrified but trying not to overflow. "I'm…so sorry!"
Cal shook his head and moved to sit next to her, opening his arms. The girl sunk against him and his shirt was soon sodden with her tears. He cradled her, rocking as if she were five instead of seventeen, pressing gentle kisses against the crown of her head. "This wasn't your fault luv." He kept his voice low as he held her, more grateful then he'd ever felt in his entire life. "Goin' to a party isn't a crime."
Her sobs were muffled against him and all he could do was continue to hold her, one hand smoothing her hair. He met Gill's eyes and found familiar quiet strength. He gave her a grateful smile.
"I was…so mad at you for treating me like a little kid…and then I got this invite to a college party…" The words came out in gusts.
"I know Em. You had every right to feel like that. I behaved like a complete ass."
She tilted her head to look into his face and sniffled. "Was…was that an apology dad?"
He reached up and thumbed away one of her tears. "I'll deny it if you tell anyone."
A laugh and a sob emerged as one. "I'm not even sure what I was thinking. I don't even like that kind of scene but, I don't know…I just…"
Cal knew what she was thinking. At least he figured as much. She was asserting her independence and as much as it pained him, he understood. The stunts he'd pulled as a teen put anything and everything Emily did to shame but the circumstances around her little rebellion, through no fault of her own, could have proven tragic.
"I was angry but excited. And he seemed so…nice."
Every muscle in his body tensed as he fought to relax and managed to succeed.
"When he brought me a drink, I…" She continued to meet her father's eyes and when all she saw was deep love, it gave her the courage to keep going. Her memories were murky or nonexistent but she remembered the initial panic. It was branded forever in her brain. "I knew I shouldn't have. It was Coke with rum or something. It sort of burned…a little bit later I started to feel kind of…off…" Her eyes then drifted away from his, first fastening on Gillian who gave a reassuring smile and then fixing on the far wall.
Once again, that flare of anger began to blaze inside and Cal struggled to control it. He wanted desperately to drop by the police station and pay a visit to young Mr. Bressler. The tiniest part of him regretting not pulling the trigger, as he listened to his daughter's anguished voice. Shame quickly followed the thought but he tried to keep it tucked in the background.
"I started to get really scared when I got dizzy and then he said he was going to help me. That I should lay down…I don't remember anything else." Emily stopped, her face working to avoid any more tears. She managed a direct gaze at her father again. "He drugged me, didn't he? It wasn't just alcohol?"
"No, darlin', it wasn't."
Horror at the confirmation sunk into her features, making her seem gaunt. "Oh my God…"
Watching Cal's face turn helpless, Gillian crossed to the bed and sat next to the girl. She took one limp hand in her own. "Emily?"
Huge dark eyes met hers.
"The doctor has assured us that nothing happened."
The implication of her words hit home and Emily sagged, her eyes closing.
"Why don't you try to get a little more rest?" Gillian ran a hand up her arm and gently squeezed her shoulder.
Emily looked from one adult to the other before nodding slowly. "I'd really like to go home."
"I'll make sure of it, luv." Cal pulled her against him once more and squeezed tightly.
Only Gillian noticed the stray tear that found its way down his stubbly cheek.